British TV Mini-Reviews Update 3 – S – Z

Below are brief summaries of Russell T. Davies two Doctor Who spinoffs.

Title: The Sarah Jane Adventures
Featured Actors: Elisabeth Sladen, Tommy Knight, Daniel Anthony, Anjli Mohindra, Yasmin Paige, John Leeson
Episode Length: 30 minutes
Episodes: 6 except final season
Discs: 3 (depends on season)
Total Seasons (Series): 5
Total Episodes: 23, including pilot
Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: BBC
General Information: The Doctor’s companion, Sarah Jane Smith gets to have her own adventures, not only saving Earth from invasion but helping aliens who have simply crash-landed on Earth and other non-dangerous or unusual happenings. She adopts a son, Luke, and becomes a mentor to his teenaged friends. This series was created by Davies to be aimed at 8-12 year-olds, and it was unfortunately cut short by the sudden death of the lead actor, Elisabeth Sladen. It also took a little bit to find it’s footing. However, starting with the second season it became an excellent children’s series. The episodes were 30 minutes and two episodes formed a complete story.

Title: Torchwood
Featured Actors: John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Gareth David-Lloyd, Burn Gorman, Naoko Mori
Episode Length: 1 hour
Episodes: 13 per series (season)
Discs: 7 for Series 1, 5 for Series 2, Varied for Mini-Series
Total Seasons (Series): 2 full seasons, plus 2 mini-series
Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: BBC
General Information: Russell T. Davies created Torchwood as a modern, adult spin-off of Doctor Who, centered on Capt. Jack Harkness, and the Torchwood Institute, a group dedicated to fighting aliens on Earth. There were two 13-episode regular series, followed a few years later by the mini-series Children of Earth and still later the mini-series Miracle Day. I only have the core series on DVD. I have seen Children of Earth – it’s the best five hours of TV I will never re-watch (it’s both violent and depressing) and I only saw about half of Miracle Day. The first series also really pushed the envelope of being an “adult” series, whereas series 2 settled in on storytelling, not that series 1 didn’t tell good stories because it did. This series is adults-only.

Title: Upstairs, Downstairs
Featured Actors: Gordon Jackson, Jean Marsh, Angela Baddeley, David Langton, Simon Williams, Christopher Beeny
Episode Length: 1 hour
Episodes: 13 per season (16 for Season 5)
Discs: 4 per season
Total Seasons (Series): 5
Format: Color, Standard, NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: ITV (Granada)
General Information: Upstairs Downstairs is a British drama series about the Bellamy household who live at 165 Eaton Place in London – both the upper-middle-class Bellamys and their servants who work downstairs. At first glance, it may seem the series idealizes the role of servants in Edwardian England. However, even in this first season that really isn’t the case, and the series often includes clever, yet subtle social comment on the social situation of both the servants and their employers. This series also interweaves the stories of the Bellamys and their servants with the larger story of British history from 1910 to 1930.

Read my Review of Upstairs Downstairs Series 1.
Read my Review of Upstairs Downstairs Series 2.
Read my Review of Upstairs Downstairs Series 3.
Read my Review of Upstairs Downstairs Series 4.
Read my Review of Upstairs Downstairs Series 5.

Title: Waking the Dead
Featured Actors: Trevor Eve, Sue Johnson, Will Johnson, Holly Aired, Claire Goose
Episode Length: 2 hours (two 1-hour parts per story)
Episodes: 4 per season (Series 1 also includes the pilot movie)
Discs: 3 for Series 1, 4 for Series 2
Total Seasons (Series): 9
Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC
Region: 1
Production Source: BBC
General Information: Detective Superintendent Peter Boyd leads an interdisciplinary group of experts who re-open and investigate cold cases, using techniques that were not available at the time of the original case. I only have seasons 1 and 2, per IMDB.com this series ran for nine seasons.

Title: Whitechapel
Featured Actors: Rupert Penry-Jones, Phil Davis, Steve Pemberton
Episode Length: 1
Episodes: 3 per Series (single story)
Discs:1 (per series)
Total Seasons (Series): 4
Format: Color, Widescreen, PAL
Region: 2
Production Source: ITV
General Information: Set in the modern day, DI Joseph Chandler works in the modern Whitechapel district of London. When a copycat of Jack-the-Ripper starts attacking women he has to team-up not only with his assigned DS but with a Jack-the-Ripper expert who had previously made money leading “Ripper Tours” on the streets of London. Chandler’s life is further complicated by his own severe OCD which is handled in a realistic way. Later seasons also deal with copycat killers who mimic historic crimes. Note that when the first season was released in the US it had the subtitle “The Ripper Returns”. Highly recommended.